§ (1.) £11,659, to complete the sum for the Lunacy Commission, England.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he wished to offer one or two observations on what he considered the unreasonableness of the Government in attempting to force this Vote through the House under the present circumstances. The Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy for the present year had not yet been furnished. When the Commission was established a provision was made that the annual Report of the Commissioners should be laid on the Table of the House within 21 days of the commencement of the Session, and for the present year this had not yet been done, although they were now half through July. He had, on a previous occasion, asked the Under Secretary to the Board of Trade to endeavour to get the Report presented as soon as possible in the Session; and the hon. Gentleman, on that occasion, assured the House that no unnecessary or avoidable delay should be permitted to interfere with its presentation. Nevertheless, it had not made its appearnce at an earlier date than in previous years, and last year it was not furnished until the middle of August, when it was of no practical use whatever. The Returns contained in the Report were of very serious national importance, and he was sure that the people at large had no idea of the growing importance of this question of lunacy in regard to England. In order to give an idea of the increase of lunacy, he would ask permission to read a few figures which appeared in the Returns. In the year 1859 the total number of lunatics in the country was 36,762; by the year 1882—that was to say, in 23 years—the number had increased to 74,842. Whereas of the lunatics in 1879, 15,000 only were in 1243 county and borough asylums, and 7,963 in workhouses; last year, although the number in workhouses had not very materially increased, the number in county and borough asylums had gone up from 15,000 to 42,000. The population in the same time had increased only from 19,650,000 to 21,460,000. The total number of lunatics to the population 23 years ago was only 18.67 in 10,000; last year it had risen from that proportion to a total of 28.34 in 10,000. He said that when the nature of lunacy was considered, such an increase, in proportion to the population, became a very serious national question, and that the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners was one which must arrest the attention and secure the consideration of Parliament. Therefore, they ought to be possessed of the information which the Commissioners had to furnish before they were asked to vote the money which was now demanded without any consideration of the great question to which he had referred. The proportion of lunatics in workhouses in 1859 was 25 per cent; the proportion in workhouses last year was also 25 per cent; but an enormous increase had taken place in the number of lunatics who were inmates of asylums, hospitals, and licensed houses, which meant that an enormous number of afflicted persons who ought really to have been kept in the workhouses had, in order to save trouble to the authorities of the workhouses, been sent off, sometimes in shoals, to the county and borough asylums; and their being so sent off involved an amount of cruelty and inhumanity which was almost impossible of belief until the whole of the circumstances of the case were examined. This question of pauper lunatics in workhouses had been pressed on the Government in the Report of the Commissioners year after year; but, so far as he was able to ascertain, without any practical result whatsoever. The evil had become so great that the Committee were now entitled to ask the Government whether they intended to take any immediate steps with the view to its amelioration? In the Report of the year before last the Commissioners said, with respect to Middlesex—There can be no doubt that the question of making additional provision for the insane poor of Middlesex has again become a pressing one;and they went on to say— 1244The aged and infirm are very numerous, and there are a large number of them who might he adequately cared for in the workhouse infirmaries. Under present circumstances, however, there is but little pecuniary inducement to Guardians to retain such persons in workhouses, or to receive them back again from asylums, the weekly cost of maintenance here, 9s. 7½d., being actually reduced to 5s. 7½d. only, by the 4s. a-week returned from the money voted by Parliament.While in the Report of last year, at page 158, they had a very good illustration of the effect of this system. The Commissioners, in speaking of the insane in workhouses, said—In our experience there is now frequently a tendency to send to the asylum patients who might he sufficiently cared for in workhouses. We have no doubt, indeed, that the effect of the Parliamentary subvention of 4s. a-week, allowed to Boards of Guardians for every insane patient maintained in an asylum, has, in many instances, tended to promote the removal to asylums, and has prevented the return back to workhouses from asylums of patients who could, with slightly more liberal provision in the way of food and supervision, be adequately dealt with in workhouses. The rate of maintenance in county asylums is in many districts so moderate that, deducting the 4s. subvention, the cost to the Guardians is less than if the insane person were retained in the workhouse.That was the whole secret of the removal of pauper lunatics to the county and borough asylums. Then came the sequel to these observations of the Commissioners. The Report continued—A remarkable example occurred last year at Halifax of the manner in which a large demand was, as we think, improperly made upon asylum accommodation for cases requiring only workhouse care. At this workhouse there have been for many years very good lunatic wards for upwards of 90 imbeciles of both sexes, and our Reports of annual visits have usually been favourable, as regards the condition and management of these wards and their inmates. It appears, however, that the accommodation in the workhouse for ordinary sick paupers had latterly become inadequate, and no further building on the same site could be sanctioned by the Local Government Board. In order, therefore, to give the necessary additional room for the sick, the Guardians decided to remove the imbeciles to the South Yorkshire Asylum at Wadsley, and to appropriate to the sick the wards thus vacated. This proceeding was objected to by the Committee of Visitors of the asylum, but could not be successfully resisted so long as the individuals to be removed could be certified to be insane, and so long as there was vacant room in the asylum. In the course of last summer accordingly 74 imbeciles of both sexes were thus transferred from the workhouse to the asylum.That was most monstrous and inhuman. These imbeciles were a class of people 1245 who required to be treated as if they were in their second childhood, yet they were confined in lunatic asylums, made to consort with persons whose association had about it something hideous and terrible, and thus the faint glimmering of the hope of recovery, which might have been entertained before, was utterly extinguished by their transfer to lunatic asylums. The Commissioners went on to say—We addressed the Local Government Board on the subject of this improper absorption of asylum accommodation, and the consequent injustice to the payers of county rate, of placing upon them a charge which, as it appeared to us, ought to be borne by the payers of local poor rates; and we expressed a hope that the Board would continue to urge upon the Halifax Guardians the propriety of making speedy provision for their imbecile poor, not requiring asylum treatment.Such was the Report of the Commissioners last year. "What the present attitude of the Commissioners was with regard to these workhouses they did not know, because the Report for the present year had not been furnished. The Report of the Commissioners contained the following extract from the Report of the Visiting Commissioner in November last, with regard to the Dudley Union Workhouse:—In my Report of the 18th of November, 1880, I stated as follows:—'Attention has been drawn by the Visiting Commissioners for several years past to the overcrowding of the lunatic wards, but it continues to be as great as ever, and nothing has been done, nor, as Car as I can learn, is anything in immediate contemplation, with a view to remove or abate the evil which in the male lunatic ward day-room is, indeed, becoming worse every year. In the dormitories of this ward also the beds are so close that they touch each other at the sides, and the patients have to climb into and out of their beds over the bottom. Apart from the insufficient space, it can easily be imagined how objectionable it must be for insane patients, many of whom are of dirty habits, and some addicted to bad practices, to sleep in beds actually touching each other. The above description (of a year ago) is applicable in every respect to the state of these dormitories to-day (Nov. 1881), and the day-room is more overcrowded than ever. I saw today 60 patients jammed together at tables not affording proper room for more than half that number taking their dinners in the greatest discomfort, though the food was good and abundant. I have never seen such persistent overcrowding without the prospect of an early remedy. On the 23rd of February last the Guardians, I am informed, stated to the Local Government Board by letter that they proposed "in a short time to build schools and other accommodation for children a short distance from the workhouse, and by making a 1246 portion of the space now occupied by the school children available for the use of imbeciles, the overcrowding complained of will be eventually relieved." Plans were, I understand, prepared early in the present year, but they are still (Nov. 1881) in the board-room, not even opened for examination, and there is, of course, no immediate prospect of anything being done to relieve the serious condition of matters above described.'In laying this subject before the Committee, he had used the ipsissima verba of the Commissioners without interposing any comment of his own, his sole object being to place the matter before the Committee strictly upon its own merits. He believed he had shown, not only the very serious growing importance of this question of lunacy, but also that the existing accommodation was utterly insufficient to meet the need of the community. He believed also he had shown sufficient ground for demurring to this Vote being forced through the House, as the Government were endeavouring to force it through, in the absence of the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners, without which it could not be sufficiently and intelligently discussed. As far as he was aware, there should be no difficulty in presenting this important Report, and he could not understand how the Vote could be taken in its entirety without it. The contention that it must be taken at once for the Service would not hold water for a moment; because, if it were necessary that the money for this Department should be voted immediately, it would be equally necessary that it should be voted for Classes III. and IV. and for the Civil Service Votes. But the Government did not propose to take any other Votes than those of Class II. The suggestion, therefore, could not be serious, because there had not been a single argument brought forward in support of it. But, if the Government were not disposed to take a Vote on Account, which he considered a very reasonable proposal; if they were not content to postpone the Vote until the House was in possession of the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners for the present year, he hoped that, at any rate, they were in a position to give some satisfactory information with regard to the difficult points in the previous Reports of the Commissioners to which he had called attention.
§ MR. INDERWICK
said, he wished to draw the attention of the Govern- 1247 ment to one point in connection with lunatic asylums, in the hope that between this year and the next something might be done to remedy a defective state of things. It had been several times brought to his notice that a great number of the women who were inmates of asylums were insufficiently and improperly supplied with clothing. It was absolutely essential with regard to many of these asylums, and especially private houses, that great attention should be paid to the clothing of women, a matter with which men were not sufficiently acquainted. It had been mentioned, on many occasions, that the Visiting Justices and other visitors had reason to doubt whether the women, under the existing circumstances, were properly clothed, having regard to the seasons of the year. In some cases it was almost impossible for a visitor to ascertain for himself whether that was so or not. He had to take the word of the female attendants; and the suggestion he (Mr. Inderwick) had to make was that it would be desirable, in the interests of the female patients in those houses throughout the country, that there should be a certain limited number of duly qualified females appointed, either temporarily or permanently, as Inspectors, or Assistant Inspectors, who might assist in those investigations which were essential for the personal comfort and good treatment of the unfortunate women in question.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that the changes in this Department had resulted in a profit of £6,000 a-year. He wished to know whether a corresponding reduction was made in the Estimate, or whether the Commissioners continued to draw the same salaries as before?
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he wished to ask whether the Government had yet make up its mind to relieve the counties of their burdens with regard to criminal lunatics? His hon. Friend the Undersecretary to the Treasury presided last year over a Committee which made recommendations with reference to this subject, and he would be glad to know whether those recommendations had been carried out, and, if so, in what position the matter now stood? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could inform him whether any cells had been fitted up in any prison or prisons designated 1248 for the reception of criminal lunatics, or whether any steps were taken in that direction? He ventured to hope that some steps had been taken to relieve counties of those burdens, which they ought not to bear, in respect of criminal lunatics.
§ MR. SALT
said, the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had spoken of the great cruelty of removing imbeciles from the workhouses to lunatic asylums. Actually, the matter was quite the reverse of what the hon. Member had stated. He could assure the Committee that as soon as the removal of these unfortunate persons was effected the very greatest care was taken of them. It was, however, no question of treatment that they had to deal with; it was entirely a question of expense. They had to consider the question as to whether imbeciles of quiet character ought to be removed to lunatic asylums on the ground of expense. The hon. and gallant Member behind him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had pointed out that a great number of lunatics had of late years been transferred to asylums, and that in consequence the Lunacy Commissioners had been obliged to put undue pressure on the counties to furnish new asylums. The question here was not the kindness or the character of the asylumns, but whether there was any danger that the public might incur a much greater expense than was necessary in order to take care of these afflicted persons. They stood in need of some means to deal easily and conveniently with the persons who were not so insane as to require extensive care; they wanted some means of dealing with imbeciles, a certain number of whom could be taken care of in the workhouses, because they were able to do some kinds of work, and could be allowed to go about at large—although he must say the number of imbeciles of this description was not very large. Were they to improve the workhouses so as to retain these persons, or were they to extend the lunatic asylums? That was really the question. Or, again, were they to have separate imbecile asylums on a very extensive scale? The latter plan had been tried with regard to the Metropolis, as his hon. Friend well knew. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Inderwick) had referred to the question of female Inspec- 1249 tors. He did not know whether it would be well to import female Inspectors into the very difficult system of lunacy; but he knew, as a matter of fact, that very great care was taken of all women in lunatic asylums. In one asylum that he was acquainted with there was a matron, who was a person of great experience and of most undoubted character and ability; he knew that the recommendations which she had made, with regard to the comfort and clothing of the female inmates, had always been assiduously attended to by the Committee; and he did not believe that any greater care could be given to lunatic persons than was given by the matron to whom he referred. While he regarded the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member as worthy of consideration, he had great doubt whether any improvement of the kind desired would result from its adoption; while he believed that if any grievance actually existed under this head it could be dealt with satisfactorily in some other way.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he was glad to be able to inform the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who had inquired as to the Report of the Committee which sat to consider the question relating to criminal lunatics, that almost the whole of the recommendations of that Committee had been adopted by his right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt), and that instructions had been given to prepare a Bill dealing with the subject which would be introduced next Session. Wherever any of the recommendations of the Committee could be carried into effect without legislation, that, of course, would be done at once. With regard to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), who had referred to what had taken place in that House last year in connection with a Bill on this subject, he would point out that that measure had nothing whatever to do with the matter then under discussion. It was a Bill which came within the province of the Lord Chancellor; and, under those circumstances, he trusted the hon. and learned Member would excuse him for not going any further into the subject. With reference to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Rye (Mr. Inderwick), that lady Inspectors should be appointed to visit lunatic asylums, the matter was, of course, an 1250 important one; but he should not be willing to give an answer with regard to it without further consideration. Lady Inspectors had, no doubt, been appointed in cases where they were fitted for the duties devolving upon them; but he was not prepared to say that the duty of inspecting lunatic asylums was one which it was desirable that they should undertake, or that they would be willing to discharge. The hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had called attention to the fact that the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners had not yet been received. He (Mr. Hibbert) shared the regret of the hon. Member that this Report was not issued at an earlier date; and, having that morning sent to the Office of the Commissioners for information on the subject, he had received a reply to the effect that the Report would be ready to be presented to the Lord Chancellor before the end of the week, after which time it could be obtained on application by Members of both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, although they had not the Report before them at that moment, it would be sent in earlier than last year. He trusted the hon. Member for Queen's County would be satisfied with that assurance; and the Committee might rely that whatever power he had in this matter should hereafter be exerted to insure the presentation of the Report at an earlier period of the Session. He quite agreed with the hon. Member that the Report ought to be in the hands of Members before this Vote came forward. The hon. Member had also referred to the increase which had taken place in lunacy; but, although an increase had undoubtedly occurred, he believed there were causes by which that increase might be easily explained. Those causes he did not wish to enter into at that moment, because they would become matters of discussion on a future occasion. It seemed to him that the question as to whether some arrangement could not be made for the imbeciles and idiots in workhouses was very well worthy of consideration; and he thought that, perhaps, the difficulty might be overcome by having a cheaper kind of asylum, such as that in use in the Metropolis. He believed that one or two places might be prepared for them in which they could be trained, and possibly made useful members of 1251 society. That, of course, could not be done in lunatic asylums; and although it was true that, to a certain extent, the educational process might go on, yet it was almost impossible that the unfortunate inmates could be taught to do any useful work. He hoped that when they had adopted a system of County Government the counties would combine to deal with this question. He believed the suggestion he had made would be to the advantage of the poor people themselves, and also to the advantage of the authorities, inasmuch as it would relieve the pressure under which the latter now suffered. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member as to the Middlesex, Dudley, and Halifax Unions, he could assure him that the matters referred to had been continually before the Local Government Board during the last year, and that the Board had given every assistance in their power to the county authorities for the purpose of getting the cases sent back from county asylums to the workhouses; but he regretted to say that their endeavours had not proved successful. He trusted, however, that the exertions which had been made would not be fruitless, and that they would shortly result in a more satisfactory state of affairs. He believed he had replied to the principal points raised by the hon. Member for Queen's County, whom he should be happy to supply with any further information that he might require.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County had done good service in drawing the attention of the Committee to the Reports of the Lunacy Commissioners, and to the late period in the Session at which those Reports were presented. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member that the Committee should be in possession of the Report of the Commissioners before they were asked for this Vote; and he would remind the Committee that the Vote itself afforded the only opportunity they would have of discussing the serious questions connected with Lunacy Reform. He had himself brought forward this subject on a former occasion, when he was met with great coldness and the absence of all argument on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken from the Treasury Bench said that next year there would be legislation 1252 on the subject of lunacy. He thought the Committee would agree with him in saying that it would be of the greatest advantage if, on the present occasion, they were able to review the lunacy legislation now existing, so that when the measure foreshadowed by the hon. Gentleman came forward the House would have the benefit of the opinions which had been expressed. The existing Lunacy Laws were full of anomalies; for instance, there were six Commissioners to look after 70,000 lunatics, while there were three Visitors for every 1,000 Chancery lunatics; yet, notwithstanding that the expense and waste caused by maintaining this system were very great, the Government attempted nothing in the way of reform; they remained, in fact, perfectly quiescent. The presentation of this Vote was the only opportunity for ventilating the reform of the existing abuses and reducing the very large expenditure which the Central Authority imposed on the local authorities in all matters connected with lunacy. He would not detain the Committee farther than to say that, in his opinion, it was wrong that the House of Commons should not have an opportunity of discussing, with ample information and at considerable length, the points which had just been referred to.
§ MR. SALT
said, he entirely agreed that it was a matter of great inconvenience that the Reports not only of the Commissioners in Lunacy, but of other Departments, were not presented earlier. At the time when those Reports were most needed they could, as a rule, only get Reports which were two years old, and therefore only partially to be trusted. It was very difficult to see how the matter could be remedied; but, at any rate, it could not be done by merely saying, as the hon. Gentleman opposite had said—"We will try to do better next year." But the Returns on which these Reports were based were so voluminous that they could not be checked and considered in one day, and it was sometimes absolutely impossible to get the Reports into a proper position within the time required by Parliament. The case, however, might possibly be met by getting the Returns in by the 29th of September every year, instead of the 31st of December. He put it before the Committee that the delay 1253 was not the fault of the particular Department they were now speaking of; but that it arose from the difficulty of dealing with Returns of so voluminous a character.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he understood from the hon. Gentleman opposite that the Report of the Committee which sat to consider the question of criminal lunatics was to be carried out. He gathered, then, that the counties were to be entirely relieved of persons who had become insane after their trial, and that these were to be confined in one of Her Majesty's prisons. He ventured to hope that that was not a matter which would require to be dealt with by legislation, and that the county asylums would be relieved forthwith of criminal lunatics.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
asked if he was right in understanding that criminal lunatics whose term had expired would be kept in some separate asylum, and not returned to the county lunatic asylums?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) had mistaken the impression which the remarks which he had offered to the Committee were calculated to convey. He did not intend to convey that he thought the persons transferred from workhouses to lunatic asylums were likely to suffer from any want of kindness shown to them in their misery. So far from that being his meaning, he was convinced that the labours of the members of the Medical Profession in behalf of these unfortunate individuals were characterized by kindness and benevolence in the highest degree. He was well aware that there was no class whose kindness and patience was more taxed than that portion of the Profession which was concerned in the management of lunatics. The present system undoubtedly left much to be desired; but with regard to the kindness shown in the treatment of lunatics, he did not think there was any cause for complaint. He would ask the hon. Gentleman opposite whether he appreciated the serious difficulties which arose 1254 from the want of accommodation in workhouses? The Report showed that applications for admission had been refused within a year to 227 males and 218 females. That was a very serious consideration, and showed the point at which they had arrived with regard to the deficiency of accommodation. It showed, also, that it would be necessary to enlarge the present accommodation by the establishment of new institutions; and he said it was worthy the consideration of the Government whether there should not be intermediate asylums established, so that there might be a classification quite different from that which now existed, except in the Metropolis, leaving in the workhouses those who were imbecile and harmless, and who were capable of performing simple duties about the Union, and keeping in asylums those who required more serious care and treatment, at the same time relegating to the intermediate class those who were little better than imbeciles, and who ought not to be sent to lunatic asylums, not by reason of the treatment they would receive there, but by reason of the terrible association they would undergo with persons with whom no one but the insane ought to be compelled to consort.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, if some intermediate establishment could be arranged for by counties, or combination of counties, no doubt they might be able to transfer to them less serious cases, and this would make room for cases which it was desirable should be treated separately in asylums. The magistrates in one county had established an asylum for chronic cases, which was worked at a small cost as compared with other institutions of the kind.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he hoped his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Stanley Leigh-ton) would continue to urge upon the Government the necessity of dealing with the large and important question of Lunacy Reform. He would not go into the question of the Vote, but would simply observe that the Government were to blame for the long delay which had occurred in dealing with this subject. He had himself taken up the question; but he did not expect that much good would result from his endeavour, because he was sure that real improvement must come from the Government of the day.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he had twice made a proposal to Parliament, which would have had the effect of carrying out the view of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hibbert).
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £42,207, to complete the sum for the Mint, including Coinage.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he was desirous of receiving some information with regard to one or two items in the Vote. First, there were the Extra Receipts, which were shown to be largely in excess of the amount credited last year; that, however, was probably due to the quantity of silver coined. But there was a large increase shown by the Estimate in the item of salaries, wages, and allowances, which had risen from £16,000 in the last Estimate to £21,250, which he hoped would be explained. There was also another point of importance on which he desired to receive information. He asked whether the Government had come to any decision with regard to the large quantity of light gold in circulation—whether it was intended to take any steps to grapple with the difficulty, which was a serious one, and affected the interests of a large portion of the people? It was, he believed, in the power of anyone to refuse to receive in payment a sovereign, or half-sovereign, under its legal weight; and it would be an exceeding hardship if that power were exercised. The amount of light gold in circulation was very large; and he believed that the law placed the legal liability for the loss upon the actual possessor of the gold, although, in many cases, it was absolutely impossible for a person to say whether the gold was light or not. If the strict rights of all parties were exercised, the inconvenience and the loss which would result must necessarily be very great indeed. It was not for him to suggest to Her Majesty's Government how they should proceed in this matter; but as there was a large profit annually accumulating on the coinage of silver—he believed there was no profit on gold—it might be a reasonable suggestion that the responsibility for the loss on gold, wherever it was not intentional, should fall upon the authorities who retained to themselves the right to the profit which accrued.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that for some time during the re-building of the Mint 1256 operations were suspended, and the staff was reduced much below its normal strength; but now that they were completing the work of re-building they had to increase the number of workmen, and therefore the cost of wages was increased to the extent of £5,000. The same remarks applied to the staff, whose operations had been suspended during the re-building. With regard to the loss on light gold, he would point out that old and worn silver was received at the Mint at its nominal value. But in the matter of gold there was not a fraction of profit, and the State had to bear the whole burden of the cost of coining. Under this arrangement a person might go to the Mint with a certain weight of gold, and have the actual weight returned to him in coin. To defray the loss upon light gold, even from honest wear and tear, would be a very serious matter indeed. His right hon. Friend would probably remember that nearly 40 years ago the State imposed the loss necessarily upon the last holder. He could not conceive that the State should assume to itself the burden of loss resulting from wear and tear; and, moreover, it was perfectly impossible to detect whether a coin had been lightened by circulation or mechanically. For the reasons he had given, he thought the holders, and not the State, should accept the burden of loss.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he was sorry to find the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) putting forward excuses for the non-production of the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners; but there was another Report which was habitually in arrear, he believed, to a greater extent than that of any other Department. He referred to the Report of the Mint, which there was no reason whatever for delaying; and he trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would take care that next year that Report should be in the hands of Members within not less than three months of the opening of the Session. He remarked that the Estimate for the Department for 1883–4 did not show clearly what was the profit to the country upon the silver coinage resulting from the fall in the price of silver; and he thought the Committee were entitled to some information as to how so large a profit as that of £75,000, entered as a receipt, had been made.
§ MR. WARTON
asked the Secretary to the Treasury to be good enough to explain how the loss on the gold coinage was four times as much this year as it was last? He thought there should be some set off against that from the profits on silver, and the still greater profit on the bronze coinage, which latter was only worth one-third of its nominal value. But his object in rising was principally to call the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the importance of coining a greater number of half-crowns, and discontinuing the coinage of florins. The coinage of florins was altogether a mistake, and was due to an insane idea entertained some years ago about a decimal coinage, which it was well known could never take root in this country. The florin was at best a mean coin, and was not regarded with the same respect as the half-crown; on the other hand, the half-crown was very useful, because with half-crowns and shillings you could pay any number of sixpences, which it was impossible to do with florins. He trusted the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to give an assurance that the coinage of florins would be discontinued.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, there was one item in the Vote to which he desired to draw the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury—namely, the supply of bronze and silver coinage to the Colonies. It was an item upon which, in other years, the President of the Board of Trade had moved a reduction, which had been supported by the Secretary to the Treasury. [Mr. COURTNEY said, that that was a mistake.] At any rate, the hon. Gentleman had not voted in favour of the item when the President of the Board of Trade moved its rejection. He regretted the absence of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who, in former years, had also been active in regard to this Vote, and the objections which the hon. Member had urged certainly held good now. He was afraid the hon. Gentleman, although he sat below the Gangway, was not likely to move a reduction of the Vote now. He wanted to know how the item of £1,500, which now appeared in the Vote, was ascertained; because last year, when there was a much larger amount of silver sent to the Colonies, the charge was less than £1,500. He wanted to make it perfectly clear that an unnecessarily 1258 large sum was not named in the Vote. He would also like to know from the Government the reason why there was a larger estimated loss upon silver this year than last year? Was it intended to increase the coinage of silver this year to any great extent? Last year £100 was taken for that item, and this year it was £250. He doubted very much whether in any year the amount taken for loss on silver had not been found altogether beyond what was necessary, and there was nothing in the Estimates to account for any increase in the loss on silver. He had searched in vain in the Reports issued in February last for an explanation. No doubt there had been a delay in furnishing certain Reports to Parliament, and there had been various complaints in consequence; but this Report had been furnished, and he hoped the Government would explain what their objects were in regard to silver coinage this year. So far as he understood the question—but he was not aware that he was altogether correct—there was a difference between the market price and the Mint price, which was 5s. 6d. an ounce, the market price being 51 or 52 pence at the outside, leaving a profit of at least 1s. 2d. If the Committee knew what amount of silver coinage it was intended to take in hand this year, they would be able, with some approach to accuracy, to check the Government demands.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that in reference to the observations which had been made by his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Sir George Balfour), the delay which had occurred in publishing the Reports had been unavoidable. In regard to the comments of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), he was afraid that he could hold out no hope as to the suppression of the florin. The coinage of half-crowns was altogether stopped for years; but afterwards it was found necessary to re-issue them, owing to a desire expressed upon the part of bankers and others, who were of opinion that it was a most convenient coin. The issue of half-crowns had, therefore, been resumed, and both florins and half-crowns were now coined, the desire on the part of the commercial community being to have both. A florin was considered a useful and very convenient coin. As to the matter of loss on coinage, to which the hon. Member 1259 for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had referred, that was a loss derived simply from this fact. A certain weight of gold had to be converted into coin; but in the process of making it into coin a part was lost and wasted. The same remark applied to the conversion of silver into coin, and this loss represented the waste during the process of converting gold and silver into coin. The hon. Member for Queen's County had referred to the action of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in former years in moving the reduction of this Vote in regard to the Colonies. Now, he did not think that he (Mr. Courtney) had ever supported that Motion. It was altogether a matter of pure bargain between the Mint at home and the Colonies, which were supplied not with Colonial, but with Imperial coin. The English shilling and the English sixpence were sent out at their nominal value, so that the Imperial Government received a sovereign for 20s. in silver, and consequently made a considerable gain. On the whole, there was a large profit on the transaction; and, having regard to this, it was not unreasonable that the Mint should consent to bear the cost of packing and freight. He might add that this year they were going to make more coin than usual—both silver and gold.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman had given to the Committee some valuable information. He quite understood that the loss upon the coinage arose from waste; but that did not answer the question how it was that the loss was four times more this year than it had been before?
§ MR. WARTON
wished to know, in regard to the florin and the half-crown, if there were as many half-crowns made as florins? He believed that considerable inconvenience had been felt on account of the suppression of the half-crown for so many years. In regard to the Colonies, he thought they ought to get the profit as well as the loss. At present, they were charged all the waste upon the gold coinage; but they did not get the profit upon the silver.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that with respect to the supply, the object of the Mint was to supply half-crowns and 1260 florins as they were required. [Mr. WARTON: In equal quantities?] No; as they are asked for.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £24,057, to complete the sum for the Patent Office, &c.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, that the increase upon this Vote was not a very large increase; but it was one which seemed to require explanation. He found there was an Assistant Commissioner in the Trade Mark Registry who received £1,000 a-year; whereas last year there was no such item in the Vote. He wanted to know whether this salary was personal to the Office; and, if so, why the Office was not filled last year, and why it was filled this year at £1,000? The next item mentioned that the maximum salary of the Office was £800 a-year. He, therefore, wanted to know, in the first place, why this officer was receiving more than the maximum salary, and whether it was an additional Office that was not filled last year?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, this was a matter connected with the re-organization of the Department. If his hon. Friend would turn to page 132 he would find that there was an Assistant Registrar down at £600 in connection with the Trade Mark Registry, and this Assistant represented the same Office; but instead of being restricted to Trade Marks he was now Assistant Registrar. The fact that he received £1,000 instead of £800 was due to the circumstance that the gentleman who held the appointment was formerly a Registrar in the Law Courts, which gave him that salary; and, as a matter of convenience, it had been considered advisable to employ him, rather than to give him the pension he would be entitled to on retirement.
§ MR. DILLWYN
asked if one of the two offices was a sinecure, or did one officer perform double duties? He found that this gentleman was down for £600 a-year, and that he also got £1,000.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £6,970, to complete the sum for the Public Works Loan Commission.
§ (5.) £16,896, to complete the sum for the Record Office.1261
§ (6.) £36,144, to complete the sum for the Works and Public Buildings Office.
§ MR. DILLWYN
asked upon what principle the Committee were taking these Votes, because he saw they were skipping over a good many Votes, and not taking them in their regular order.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, there were six Votes, of which this was the last, which must be taken that night. Directly these six Votes were disposed of, the Committee would resume the consideration of the rest in their regular order.
§ MR. SALT
said, he happened to have a Notice down on the Paper in regard to this Vote, which he took to be a very large Vote, considering that it was merely for administrative expenses. If they compared the Vote with the cost of the Department at the time it was first created, in 1852, they would find that it had enormously increased. There were some Departments which had to do with the Business of the country, which must, of necessity, increase largely as they became developed and the requirements became greater; but, in dealing with an administrative Department, if they once had the Department well organized, the increase ought to be very small through the additional work which might be placed upon it. Now, this Department of Public Works and Buildings, if they examined it carefully, was purely an administrative Department. There were charges in other Votes for the expenditure upon Public Buildings, the Royal Parks, and other things of one kind or another, which amounted to a very large sum indeed. The present Vote related merely to the cost of supervision. The Motion he had placed upon the Paper was not intended to challenge the Vote in any particular way, but to challenge generally the increase in the expenditure upon Public Departments. He had no doubt that the officers of a Department performed their duties very well; and he was sure that, so far as his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works was concerned, the Department was admirably administered. But his object in saying anything at all about the matter was this—not that he expected so much to see the expenditure reduced, because he knew that was an extremely difficult thing. When they got an administrative 1262 Department up to a certain point it was impossible to reduce it. If they had a number of competent men around them, they must keep them, because they could not properly dispose of them otherwise. What he was anxious to prevent was the idea that these administrative Departments were always to be increased. He had taken this Department as a specimen, not because he objected in particular to this Department, but because it was a very good specimen, inasmuch as it was, as he had said just now, a purely administrative Department. There was nothing in the present Vote except what was for the expense of management in connection with other Business which was paid for in other Votes. It was a sort of Central Department over other Departments. Speaking from his own experience, and an experience which many other hon. Members must have had, he had found that whenever they were dealing with a Central Department they were obliged to keep a firm hand indeed upon it in order to prevent it from growing too large. A Central Department might be extremely economical and exceedingly effective; but a Central Department that was purely administrative might increase its work very much indeed, without increasing its staff, because it ought to have, in the first instance, a man at the head of the Department who was competent and capable of managing a large concern. Therefore, when the work increased it was merely the addition of a few clerks to carry it on. He had no wish to say anything that might assume the nature of an attack upon this Department; indeed, he had no wish to criticize its method of working, but he did want to see if they could not try, if possible, to check the expenditure upon the Central Departments of the Government. That expenditure had been growing year after year; and he was perfectly certain that although increased expenditure in some cases might be necessary, still, as a general rule, it would not lead to increased efficiency; and they must always remember this—that in dealing with administrative Departments of any kind whatever, whether they were Public Departments or Departments of a commercial character, it was to the interest of those who were at the head of the Departments, perhaps unconsciously, to make them as 1263 large as possible. The larger a Department was, the more the persons connected with it could lay claim to increased salaries, increased honours, and increased position. Although he did not for a single moment believe that the country was not exceedingly well served, and honestly and ably served, by its public servants; yet, whenever a public servant had it placed directly before his mind that by the increase of the Department he would obtain greater pay and additional honour, it was very difficult to induce such a man to study economy. Human nature was only human nature after all. Last year there would have been so many thousand letters sent out; this year there would be so many thousand more letters sent out; and thus the expenditure would go on increasing, being very much larger today than it was five or 10 years ago. No doubt there was a natural increase in the public work generally; but it all led to the idea of the exaltation of the Office, and the exaltation of the business generally, and consequently of increased expense; and he was perfectly certain that an increase of expense was not in all cases followed by an increase of efficiency. He did not for a moment blame the Government; but it was for the House to say that it would, so far as possible, require that its public servants—able, efficient, talented, honest, and patriotic as they were—should turn their minds not to the increase and enlargement of their Offices, but to the carrying on of the Public Business as efficiently as ever, but, at the same time, with the greatest possible economy, especially economy in details. Economy in details seemed a small thing to talk about; but it was a matter of very great importance. The economy practised in a Department coloured the whole administration of that Department. He had merely taken this Department because it was purely an administrative Department; and whether his right hon. Friend, who was well able to administer it, or anybody else, was in Office, he was most anxious that the principle should be laid down that these administrative Departments should, if possible, try to secure economy as well as efficiency. He was quite sure if nothing was done in that direction they would go on increasing their Estimates year by year, and would lose all control over them. 1264 New officers were appointed, and the expenses were increased, and the House might waste considerable time in discussing the Estimates; but nothing would be done unless they said—"Do, for goodness sake, let us feel that we are at the top of the tide of expenditure, as far as the Department is concerned." If he went into details he might show how many thousands of pounds might be saved without in any way sacrificing the efficiency of the Department; and he certainly wished to impress upon his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works that the expenses of this particular Department had enormously increased since it was first created in 1852.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he was quite ready to subscribe to the doctrines which had been laid down by his hon. Friend opposite. He could assure his hon. Friend that he had no desire to exalt his Office by increasing the number of officers; and he concurred with his hon. Friend that when an Office was properly organized, it ought to be able to increase its work without any undue increase of expenditure. At the same time, he was bound to say that the work of the Department now under the consideration of the Committee had accumulated during the last four or five years to such an extent that it had been found absolutely essential to increase the staff of surveyors, and it was to the increase of the staff of surveyors that the augmentation of the Vote was due. The hon. Member, however, would be glad to hear that since the Estimates were framed this year he had in another direction been able to make a considerable diminution. He had reduced the Assistant Secretary to the Department by £1,000 a-year, which he considered to be a considerable reduction. He found that the clerks could work the Office without an Assistant Secretary, and the Assistant Secretary had accordingly been retired. Therefore, while, on the one hand, he had found it necessary to increase the staff of surveyors, on the other hand, he had been able to reduce the expenses of the Office by the retirement of the Assistant Secretary. With regard to the work thrown upon the surveyors, he need hardly remind his hon. Friend that the Post Office work had increased enormously of late years. No one could have any idea of the in- 1265 crease during the last few years, and certainly during the present year it had been enormous. It had been found necessary to re-organize nearly every Post Office in the Kingdom, in consequence of the introduction of the Parcels Post; and, in addition to that, the Customs and Inland Revenue Offices had been the cause of great expenditure. It was absolutely essential that these charges should be incurred, in order to increase the efficiency of the Public Service; and it had, therefore, been necessary to add considerably to the staff of surveyors.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned the burden entailed upon the Department in consequence of having to send out surveyors in connection with providing increased accommodation for the Post Office. He wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there were certain quarters in which a visit from the surveyor had been promised, but in which the promise had not yet been performed. There was one case to which he wished to call particular attention—namely, the case of the Post Office at Plymouth. It had long been understood and promised that a surveyor should be sent down to Plymouth to consider the position in which the Post Office there was placed; but no surveyor had yet been sent. It was not a matter on which he intended to say much upon this Vote, because the immediate question before the Committee was the grant of money for work actually done; but he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would say something to supplement the observations he had already made in regard to the Post Office at Plymouth.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite right in saying that he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had promised to send down a surveyor to Plymouth to look into the Post Office and two or three other buildings there, and he should certainly have done so if it had not been for the enormous amount of work which had been thrown upon the surveyors. At this moment there were something like 200 Offices under the consideration of the Department. He could assure the hon. and learned Member that as soon as possible he would send a surveyor down to Plymouth.
§ MR. SALT
said, the Office had been overburdened with work on account of the additional Post Office building. He believed great economy of time, money, and temper might be brought about if some of these details were left to the Departments themselves, and if the Central Authority were occupied more with supervision. He wished to throw out a suggestion—although he would not go deeply into the matter—he thought considerable time was wasted by requiring this excellent Office to do a great deal of the work of detail which would be more naturally performed by the Departments themselves.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, there was a great deal in what the hon. Member had said with regard to the Surveyors, and he considered that a great deal more might be left to the local authorities in small matters. They ought, however, to look to the Chief of the Department, in whom he had very great confidence, to say whether and when surveyors should be sent out. They should not be sent out for every petty job that had to be done. The surveyor was responsible for the expenditure, and had to see that the money was properly expended.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) £11,832, to complete the sum for the National Debt Office.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that a charge was made on account of the examination and tabulation which had to be made in connection with the preparation of new tables for the grant of life annuities. The work had been taken in hand only recently, and from it was to be gained the result of the past experience of the National Debt Office. The Treasury were now in receipt of the Report of the Actuary of the National Debt Office, embodying the labours of that gentleman. As the matter involved many questions of extreme actuarial importance, it had been found desirable to refer the principle of the examination of the Government Actuary to an independent authority. As soon as the questions of principle involved were decided, the actual work of framing the new tables would be proceeded with with great rapidity. He was afraid the result would not be known before the 1267 House rose; but it would be made known during the autumn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £19,784, to complete the sum for the Postmaster General's Office.
§ (9.) £46,985, to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, England.
§ (10.) £404,110, to complete the sum for Stationery and Printing.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, the Committee ought to have some information upon this subject. A total sum of rather more than £500,000 seemed to him to be a most extraordinary amount to pay for the Stationery Office. the Vote was always increasing—there was this year an enormous increase. He did not contend that it was not necessary for the Vote to increase; but, at the same time, the advance which was being made under this head was so enormous that it seemed to him necessary that some explanation should be given with regard to it. He saw an increase for salaries, wages, and allowances; but about that he would say nothing. There was an increase for paper of £4,000. That was a great deal, and he was at a loss to know what had brought about such a large increase this year. Why should they have had more paper this year than last year? Then he saw an increase of £ 1,000 for parchment. Surely, that was an enormous development. The total amount this year for parchment was £11,000, which was an enormous sum to pay for sheepskins. There was a large increase, again, in the item of binding, the total being £49,000. Then there was an enormous sum for small stores, of which the details were given afterwards. The increase was £1,000, the total being£54,000. They were asked to vote £120,000 on those four items alone—namely, paper, parchment, binding, and small stores. There were other increases, into which he would not go at the present moment. This had always been a painful subject—questions had 1268 always been raised as to this Stationery Vote; and the Committee, no doubt, would agree with him that they were paying far too much under it. Last year they were paying too much, and this year they were paying even more than last year.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he was well aware of the natural jealousy of the Committee with regard to this item, which was one of enormous dimensions, and which grew every year, and, he was afraid he must add, would continue to grow every year. The increase in the Vote represented, to a great extent, the activity and range of our whole life. The greater the amount of activity which was displayed, and the greater the amount of Business which had to be done in Parliament and by the various Departments of the Government, the greater would be the amount of demand on the Stationery Office. As every Department and every Office had an increased amount of work thrown upon it, so were increased demands made upon the Stationery Office, not only for pens, ink, and paper, but for printing also. That was a general observation. But then the hon. Member went through several items, and took the item of parchment, for instance, as one upon which to make special complaint. Well, in this case the increase was simply in consequence of the growing demand for stamped parchment, which was supplied by the Inland Revenue and consumed by law stationers, solicitors, and others, who required stamped parchment for deeds. The increased amount expended on this item, of course, came back in the form of extra receipts—the receipts grew in proportion to the amount of parchment supplied. The increase which took place under the item for paper was to be accounted for by the fact that the Stationery Office was now taking upon itself a great deal of the supply which was formerly undertaken by the printing contractors. It might be taken generally that this Stationery Vote would increase just in proportion to the adoption of any new business or operation. For instance, the fact of the existence of the Land Court in Ireland accounted for an increased consumption of stationery, as did also the extensive operations which had taken place abroad. Altogether, it would be hopeless to endeavour to keep the Stationery Vote at the point at which it 1269 was at present, as it must always keep pace with the increasing activity of the different Departments, which were pushed on in their business by that House. As to the complaint of the number and cost of Returns, hon. Members knew perfectly well that the Government were anxious to keep within reasonable bounds the supply of Returns, which were moved for from time to time by private Members. They found it extremely difficult to do this, and were obliged to supply a great many documents of this kind, because hon. Members wanted them for some purpose or other, notwithstanding that very little information was contained in them. Some of these Retnrns were resisted, although the Government in that way gave great dissatisfaction to those who moved for them; but, whatever resistance they might make, there was no doubt that the total under the Vote for Stationery would go on increasing year by year.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, that he had not intended in his observations to include printing for that House, although that item was pretty large.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he had ascertained that the table now entered in the Estimates, and which had been prepared upon his recommendation, showing the amount of stationery supplied to the various Departments, so as to show the cost for five years, as well as the cost for printing, would soon be completed, and that then the data would exist for ascertaining the excesses of the Departmental demands. For instance, he found that the Admiralty and War Office expenditure under this head had increased by £5,000. It could not be said that this increase was owing to the country having been at war, because the fact was that in time of war there was less money spent in stationery than at other times. The authorities were too busy to use pens, ink, and paper, [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed; but he knew something of war, and that was his experience. When these tables were prepared they would be better able to criticize this matter than they were now. He wished to suggest to the Financial Secretary that it would be advisable to have the particulars arranged under the heads of England, Ireland, and Soot-land, as he believed the division of these 1270 enormous sums would be useful in comparing the Estimate for one with the Estimate for another. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) would find that there was a large increase for Ireland. There was a larger amount of business being done in that country than there had been, and he was afraid that there was no chance of any diminution.
§ MR. EARP
said, the observations which had been made upon these items rather pointed to some modification in the system of accounts. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had explained that there were many items, the increase upon which was owing to a development of the supply of commodities which were paid for by the public. This was what they might term a profitable increase. It seemed to him that in these cases the charges which were made on account of that which was a profitable business, as was the Post Office and the Stamp Office, should be debited in the accounts to those Departments. It was true that year after year attention was drawn to the heavy increasing charge in regard to stationery; and it appeared to him that they were wandering away from what were legitimate charges for the Services of the State.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, there were two points upon which he should like to ask questions. The first was as to the Parliamentary Debates—namely, whether any final decision had been come to about reporting or non-reporting of the proceedings of the Standing Committees? He did not wish it to be understood that he desired to have the Standing Committees reported; on the contrary, if the decision rested with him he should certainly not have them reported. He did not think it was necessary that a charge should be made in regard to this matter. But the question had been discussed repeatedly in private conversation and in debate, and he was anxious to know whether any decision had been arrived at on the point. He wished to be thoroughly understood as guarding himself against expressing any opinion in favour of reporting the Committees, because he believed they had quite enough Hansard at present. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member (Sir George Bal- 1271 four), he (Mr. Gibson) was prepared to make some statement; but as the hon. and gallant Member had gone away he should defer that statement to another occasion.
MR. HINDE PALMER
remarked, that there was a large mass of Papers distributed to Members of Parliament which must cost a large sum of money, and which was comparatively useless, as Members did not read one-half of it. He would suggest that, instead of Members being deluged with Blue Books, there should be some understanding arrived at in order that those Members who took an interest in a special subject should have the books on making application for them, or expressing their desire to be supplied with them. A great saving might be effected in this way. Hon. Members should be required to say what Papers they desired to have, and these should be sent to them, and they should not continue the practice of sending round all the Papers published to every Member. More than this, he was inclined to think that the Secretary to the Treasury might well consider that a great many Returns were moved for by private Members which were really, he should not like to say frivolous and useless, but, comparatively speaking, unnecessary, and added without sufficient reason very considerably to the expense. He did not want to say much about the Grand Committees; but he certainly thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson) was justified in putting his question to the Government. He (Mr. Hinde Palmer) was certainly of opinion that there was no utility in publishing the reports of the proceedings of these Committees as a sort of supplement to Hansard. He did not suppose the Government entertained any such idea; but, at any rate, the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite seemed to have some apprehension of the kind, and it was, therefore, quite right that the matter should be, if possible, cleared up.
MR. HINDE PALMER
Yes; the right hon. and learned Gentleman feared that the Government might intend to have the Committees reported. He thought the suggestion he had made with regard to the non-circulation of all 1272 the Blue Books to all the Members of the House well worth consideration. Whenever books were published upon a subject in which hon. Members were particularly interested, such books should be supplied to them gratuitously; but all printed matter should not be sent round to them, irrespective of its character or of the requirements of Members.
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER
said, the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hinde Palmer) was a very good one. On the part of the War Office he should like to say that they were making careful inquiries every time a Return was moved for as to what was its expense. A very large Return had been moved for only very recently by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot); but it was found to consist mainly of extracts from gazettes on soldiers' unclaimed balances, the printing of which would be so expensive that the Secretary of State had ordered it should not be printed. The Return itself was accessible in the Library to all hon. Members who wished to see it.
§ MR. SALT
remarked, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir George Balfour) had suggested that when the country was at war the Stationery Vote was reduced. He trusted that they would not go to war in order to reduce the Votes. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hinde Palmer) respecting the non-delivery of Blue Books, there was this difficulty to be considered. When a Blue Book was printed, the printers did not know the number which would be required. A thousand copies of one Blue Book might be printed, and it might be found subsequently that 3,000 were required. There was no clue as to the number—no guide as to the quantity which should be supplied; therefore, the printer was obliged to furnish sufficient for the whole House. As to the question of the expense and convenience or inconvenience of leaving the Blue Books in circulation, or of keeping a number in the Office to be applied for, on the whole he believed the present system was more convenient and caused the least trouble. If the books were kept in the Office to be applied for, and only a limited number were printed, it would often be found 1273 that a Blue Book which was not expected to be of much interest when printed, but which afterwards became a matter of first consequence, would be so largely called for that the trouble the Office would be put to would be much greater than that experienced at the present time. There was very often a sudden rush for a Blue Book. No doubt the expense of the present system was very great, and he had often turned it over in his mind, being anxious to effect economy in detail as far as possible; but he certainly thought that the use of printing was so absolutely necessary for their daily life and their daily habits that little economy was to be effected in this matter. The enormous quantity of printed matter which they required in order to carry on their business satisfactorily would always necessitate a very large Vote under this head. But here, again, came in what he had ventured to point out just now—namely, that economy in these particulars depended more than anything upon the Heads of Departments. A really good Head of the Stationery Department would, he was certain, save the country thousands of pounds. He did not mean to say the present Head of the Department was not a perfectly good one; but he had seen economy effected by really zealous Heads of Departments in other concerns, and he was satisfied it might be done by these high officials if they were so inclined. A good Head of a Department, as compared with a careless Head, would save many thousands of pounds. He did not wish to suggest that the Department was not thoroughly and well organized at the present time; but he wished to draw attention to the necessity of looking after the Heads of Departments. As to Returns moved for by private Members, it was true that there were a large number granted which were almost useless; but that was owing, amongst other reasons, to the fact that very frequently the information given in one Return was, in a great measure, to be found in other Returns, so that confusion was caused; and sometimes in one Return they got very little more information than had been given in a Return which had preceded it. He did not think that difficulty would ever be really overcome until there was some new arrangement established with regard to the Statistical 1274 Returns. The statistics were prepared in the various Departments; the Departments were under pressure of other work, and of necessity the Returns were extremely incomplete and inaccurate. He hoped the day might soon come when they might have a Statistical Department, which would deal with all Returns, instead of their being dealt with by the several Departments. The preparation of Returns was a great trouble and a great source of expense; and he believed that some time or other the idea of establishing a small and efficient Statistical Department would be carried out with great advantage. That Department would have at its fingers' ends all the information Members might require, and when any Member desired information he would simply have to go to the Department and get it. There was just one other suggestion which occurred to him in relation to the expense of Returns—namely, that if it were possible, it would not be a bad plan to put upon each Return published the cost to the country of its preparation; because, if a Member who moved for a Return saw at the top, printed in tolerably legible words, "This Return is published at a cost of £20, £50, £100, or £200," as the case might be, it would be some little check upon the voluminous and the many unnecessary Returns which were moved for.
§ MR. FRANCIS BUXTON
said, perhaps he might be allowed to say a word or two upon the subject of the many worthless, useless, extravagant, and somewhat frivolous Returns which were often moved for by private Members. They had a curious and very remarkable instance of that on the Paper of to-day, for he found upon to-day's Paper three very lengthy and very voluminous Returns moved for by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), Returns which might be of some use to the hon. Gentleman himself in respect to some special object he had in view, but which could not be of any use or value to the House at large. He (Mr. F. Buxton) presumed that, as the Returns were on the Paper, the Secretary to the Treasury had himself sanctioned them—[Mr. COURTNEY: No.]—at any rate, had allowed them to be put on the Paper as unopposed. [Mr. COURTNEY: No.] He (Mr. F. Buxton) was glad to know that the Returns were to be op- 1275 posed; and he hoped the Committee would exercise its discretion in the matter, and require from the Secretary to the Treasury, before the Returns were passed, a statement of the expense and use of the Returns now moved for. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hinde Palmer) had referred to another matter of great importance—namely, the distribution of Parliamentary Papers to private Members. It was computed by the Stationery Office that during the last Parliament every Member who drew all his Papers received a ton of literature, through which he had to wade during that Parliament. Now, whether that Parliament did much good with ail that literature or not was, perhaps, an open question; but at least it would be undisputed that three-fourths of the literature was perfectly useless, and found its way into the waste-paper basket. The Controller of the Stationery Office had made a proposal as to the issuing of Notice Papers every morning to Members, instead of sending the Papers themselves. It was suggested that this Notice Paper should give a short digest of the contents of each Paper issued on the day, and that Members should have a counterfoil in which to fill in the Papers they required, so that they might draw only those Papers, and no others he (Mr. F. Buxton) had it on good authority that the Stationery Office would quickly find out what Papers would be drawn in the greatest numbers; and that if the plan suggested were adopted, there would be a saving of £5,000 immediately, and probably of a very much larger sum in future. The Stationery Office felt that hon. Members would not draw Papers of a dull and of a somewhat uninteresting character, but that they would draw others in much larger numbers. He himself had brought forward this subject on a previous occasion; but for some reason or another hon. Members seemed to like to receive their Parliamentary Papers, though those Papers might include some which were not of the slightest interest to hon. Members in general. The Controller of the Stationery Office had suggested that hon. Gentlemen should have the power of saying at the beginning of every Session that they would have all the Papers delivered to them as at present, and that those hon. Members who were of an 1276 economical and more careful turn of mind should be allowed, if they chose, after seeing the Notice Paper, to draw only those Papers they required. The Secretary to the Treasury was a Member of the Joint Committee of the two Houses which sat two years ago on this subject. That Committee reported that the proposal of the Controller of the Stationery Office was worthy of adoption; and he (Mr. F. Buxton) sincerely hoped that the Secretary to the Treasury was still of the same opinion, and that in the next Session, or in a very short time, they might see practical effect given to the suggestion of the Controller of the Stationery Office.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, his hon. Friend was certainly a very determined advocate of this mode of saving expense in the Printing Department; but he (Mr. Rylands) was of opinion that, so far from the Parliamentary Papers being too much circulated, they might be made very much more valuable for the public good, if each Member of Parliament had the right to send one copy of each Parliamentary Paper to any place in the United Kingdom free of postage. He was quite sure that, while it might be perfectly true that many of the Papers published were not of interest to individual Members, there was scarcely a single Return or a single Paper published under the authority of Parliament which did not contain information of more or less interest to certain classes of the community; and he, personally, would be very glad if he had the opportunity—and he had no doubt other hon. Members would also be equally glad to have the opportunity—if, when he got his Parliamentary Papers in the morning, he found that one of them probably was of interest to persons connected with the Medical Profession, giving very important information with regard to subjects affecting national health, he could send that Paper down, say, to a member of the Medical Profession, in the district with which he was connected. There were other Papers published with reference to factories and mines which were not very interesting to individual Members of Parliament, but which contained matter of the greatest value and importance to the people connected with factories and mines. And so with regard to other subjects. There were Reports of Consuls and Secretaries to Legations with 1277 regard to foreign trade, and with regard to the several arrangements of foreign countries. These Reports contained a vast mass of most valuable information. It was quite true that hon. Gentlemen found that they were not able to read all the Papers themselves—it would take very much more than 24 hours a-day for any hon. Gentleman to read all the Papers which were distributed in the course of the day—but he did think that, considering the public who paid the money they were voting were very much interested in the Papers which were presented to Parliament, it would be a very wise utilization of the Papers published if Members had the opportunity of sending them to their constituents, or to public Libraries, or to people who might be peculiarly interested in a particular Paper. Now, he had frequently sent Papers in that way, either by parcel or by post; but, as hon. Gentlemen knew, Members of the House of Commons were exposed to very considerable infliction in the way of postage already. Every one of them constantly found that they were absolutely deluged with correspondence, not actually upon their own business, but upon the business of the country, and it was a source of great expense to Members to carry on that correspondence. What happened, however, in our Public Offices? Why, the rulers of the country and the permanent servants of the Crown had the privilege of franking; they could frank a great Blue Book without the slightest difficulty, and they could send, in fact, their private notes franked. He certainly considered a little more privilege might be given to Members of the House of Commons; and in regard to the circulation of Parliamentary Papers the privilege might be used for the public good. It would cost very little to send the Papers by mail; but it would give to the Parliamentary publications an enormous amount of importance in the public mind. His hon. Friend the late Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Duncan M'Laren) raised this matter in former Sessions. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) had also introduced the subject in a former Parliament; and he (Mr. Rylands) believed that at one time they would have succeeded; but the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord 1278 John Manners), who was then Postmaster General, and who seemed rather disposed to make the arrangement, was controlled by the public officials. The public officials set themselves against the proposal. There were many of the public Libraries who would be very glad to have the Papers of a more interesting character. Now, in the Stationery Vote, there were payments made for expensive publications. What became of those publications? They were not even distributed to Members, though they were issued under the authority of the Government. They were not even sent to any of the local Libraries; but he could not help thinking that it would be for the public advantage if they were wisely and judiciously distributed amongst the Libraries of the country, instead of a largo stock of them being kept in some London building or other. Hon. Gentlemen had received a curious document issued by the Home Office in relation to an inquiry made by a Departmental Committee into the promulgation of Public Statutes. It was very interesting reading, and through the means of the document they found how the money was spent when a Department was able to manage matters without the knowledge of Parliament.
§ MR. RYLANDS
begged the Chairman's pardon. What he wished particularly to point out was, that if they desired to reduce the Stationery Vote, it was most important that the different items of expense, which were increasing every year under the control of the Departments, should be carefully investigated. An hon. Member opposite—when they were voting the Supplementary Vote on a former occasion—suggested that the Stationery Department might be subjected to a careful inquiry by a Committee of the House. He (Mr. Rylands) would be glad, in the case of those large Votes, increasing, as they were, year by year, if a system could be adopted of referring them, not to a Departmental Committee, but to a small Select Committee of the House, in order that it might be ascertained where the money went, and how it was wasted. He believed that if the House took the matter carefully in hand they would be 1279 able to effect many and very large economies.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
quite agreed with a good deal that had fallen from the hon. Member for Andover (Mr. P. Buxton). He considered that a great deal of expense now incurred in Parliamentary Papers would be obviated if a little less red-tapeism was exhibited. He (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) had been sitting on the Grand Committee to which the Bankruptcy Bill was referred. Now, day by day, or nearly so, the Bill, as amended, was printed and circulated amongst the Committee. When the Bill had passed through Committee, he went to the Office and asked whether they would soon have copies of the Bill, and he was told they would not. He said—"The Bill has been printed day by day, and therefore it must be in type." The answer he received was, that it was printed in the Votes by one set of printers, and that when it was required to be printed for the House it was printed by another set of printers. The Committee would, therefore, see that the printing of the Bill twice must necessarily lead to great expense. He gave this example in order to show that a great deal might be done in the way of economy if matters were only managed in a common-sense manner.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.